Kanna’s letter among first of GI Saipan witnesses

Today we return for further examination of the remarkable deposit of evidence that American miliary personnel provided to Earhart researchers that solidified the undeniable fact of the presence and deaths of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan.

In my March 13, 2020 post, Veterans recall seeing Earhart photos on Saipanwe began with Ralph R. Kanna, of Johnson City, New York, assigned to the Army’s 106th Infantry Regiment on Saipan, who was among the first of the former GIs to contact Fred Goerner during his early Saipan investigations.  In 1961, Kanna told Goerner that as platoon sergeant of his intelligence unit on Saipan, his duty was to insure [sic] that we would take as many prisoners as possible for interrogation purposes. 

In this undated photo from the mid-1960s, Fred Goerner holds forth from his perch at KCBS Radio, San Francisco, at the height of his glory as the author of The Search for Amelia Earhart.

The below letter from appeared in the July 1996 edition of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters.  The headline is taken directly from the AES original; editor Bill Prymak’s note that the letter was sent to Fred Goerner in the mid-1960sis incorrect.  Kanna sent the letter sometime in 1961, as noted in Goerner’s 1966 classic, The Search for Amelia Earhart.  Underline emphasis in original, boldface emphasis mine unless noted. 

Dear Mr. Goerner: 

I assume this letter will be of some importance to you.  In it I shall endeavor to state some facts concerning the disappearance of Amelia Earhart.

I was Platoon Sergeant of the I & R Platoon of Headquarters Co. of the 106th Infantry, 27th Inf. Division during the assault on Saipan.  It was my duty at the time to insure (sic) that we would take as many prisoners as possible for interrogation purposes.

This photo accompanied the original July 1996 AES Newsletter presentation of Ralph Kanna’s letter to Fred Goerner circa 1961.

On Saipan we captured one particular prisoner near an area designated as Tank Valley.”  This prisoner had in his possession a picture which showed the late Amelia Earhart standing near Japanese aircraft on an airfield.  Assuming the picture of the aircraft to be of value, it was forwarded through channels to the S-2 (Intelligence Officer).   

But more important, upon questioning this prisoner by one of our “Nesei Boys” (interpreters), he stated that this woman was taken prisoner along with a male companion and subsequently he felt that both of them had been executed.

From time to time I have told these facts to associates, and they finally have convinced me to write you.  I obtained your address from an article in the NY Herald Tribune of Nov. 25, 1961.  The article stated your interest in this case.

My memory is not accurate as to dates and times of the actual contact with the prisoner, but I had only three interpreters during my tour as Platoon Sergeant of the Intelligence Section.  They were: Mr. Roy Higashi; Mr. William Nuno; Mr. Richard Moritsugu.  I am sure that if contact could be made with these persons they would corroborate my story.  I assure you I am not a crank.

This picture I spoke of must be somewhere in U.S. government files.  I wish you continued success in your investigation, because I am positive that your assumptions are correct.

Ralph R. Kanna

The names Kanna provided Goerner were three men who had served as interpreters for his unit.  Goerner located only one of them, Richard Moritsugu, in Honolulu, whose voice “quavered and broke” on the phone when Goerner asked about Saipan and Sergeant Kanna.  Moritsugu told Goerner he had no desire to discuss the war.

The late Gen. Alexander A. Vandegrift, commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps during the World War II, told Fred Goerner in a 1971 letter that Amelia Earhart died on Saipan.

Several other former GIs later contacted Goerner, among them ex-Marines Everette Henson Jr. and Billy Burks, whose stories are well known to those who’ve read Goerner’s The Search for Amelia Earhart, Truth at Last or this blog. 

Later, 26 such individuals reached out to Thomas E. Devine in response to his plea at the close of his 1987 book, Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident.  Their stories were recorded in our 2002 book, With Our Own Eyes: Eyewitnesses to the Final Days of Amelia Earhart, and especially Truth at Last, in which I devoted an entire chapter, “Saipan Veterans Come Forward,” to chronicling this phenomenon so unique to the Earhart disappearance, one that the establishment deniers, haters and nay sayers have no coherent response to.

These were just some of the American witnesses to the presence and deaths of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan.

21 responses

  1. Reblogged this on What’s All This, Then? and commented:
    An excellent and valuable piece. This is truly the way it was.

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  2. Seems pretty conclusive, unless you wish to call all the GIs liars..what does THIGAR respond to these statements? Battle fatigue?

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    1. Leslie G Kinney | Reply

      Dave,
      According to TIGHAR, the dozens of military and civilian witnesses from Saipan and the Marshall Islands all have suffered from “false memory perception.” That’s their official view – really!

      Les Kinney

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  3. Ralph R. “Lefty” Kanna
    BIRTH 1922
    DEATH 1979 (aged 56–57)
    BURIAL
    Saint Augustines Cemetery
    Brackney, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, USA

    Born in New York on July 8, 1922 to Paul Kanna and Veronica A Kays.
    Ralph R Kanna married Mary Balok (1923 – 2007).
    He passed away on April 14, 1979 in Johnson City, Orange, New York, USA.
    Photos at below links.

    LINKS:

    https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/121755765/ralph-r-kanna

    https://www.ancestry.com/genealogy/records/ralph-r-kanna-24-8kvl30

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  4. Here is an interesting and detailed article about Richard Yutaka Moritsugu, and his military service – by his son, Bob Moritsugu, a retired CIA officer. He mentions Fred Goerner’s interview, and his father’s comments on the subject.

    LINK:

    https://discovernikkei.org/en/journal/2019/4/1/richard-moritugu/

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  5. William H. Trail | Reply

    Greetings to All:

    Given the testimony of Sergeant Kanna, as well as the rest of the veritable mountain of convincing evidence with which we are all familiar placing AE and FN as prisoners of the Japanese on Saipan, could there be any doubt in the mind of an intelligent, reasonable person? I think not. The promulgation of anything but Japanese Capture is to be either willfully ignorant, or maliciously deceptive.

    All best,

    William

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  6. Stuart Brownstein | Reply

    Once again, Mike, keep up the great work, I am enjoying it immensely !
    Your friend up North, Stuart

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  7. Just Thinking . . .

    When evidence is stacked upon evidence, as this Blog has done for years, one is made to wonder why MYSTERY seems to trump FACTS.

    The mysterious seems to issue a ‘siren call of hungry ghosts’ to the wild gremlins roaming the vacuous minds of those who experience vertigo in the presence of cold, hard facts.

    Truth has always been the mortal enemy of fantasy. Dreaming allows one to do the impossible without talent.

    Responsible action, however, requires professional research, tedious work, and a love for truth, the kind which is displayed in Mike Campbell’s stellar book, THE TRUTH AT LAST.

    THIS, when coupled with other gifted researchers, writers, and eye-witnesses, has allowed us to be introduced to some of the private, unpublished knowledge of men like Adm. Chester Nimitz Jr., Gen. Alexander Vandegrift, Gen. Graves Erskine, Gen. Tommy Watson, and a host of eye-witnesses who have told their stories.

    The subject of this post is but one more of that breed. Because of men and women like this, we know the end of the Earhart story, and are able to lay to rest the amazing life of a beautiful woman who has earned her rest.”

    Until meeting Mike through these Postings, I had a wealth of disconnected information and facts, but didn’t know how to put it all together until discovering the Blueprint of this Blog.

    With each Posting, I see a new “river stone,” you know, the kind which you put together in a large glass vase, and into which you place a “bulb” with a flower hidden inside which, with nourishment, grows into a beautiful flower.

    That’s what this Blog has done for me. And this current river “stone” is merely one more addition to the Truth About Amelia which got my attention. It is an amazing thing to be captured by TRUTH.

    Now, compare that to RG and the gremlins of TIGHAR’s fantasies. Right, no comparison. Thanks, once again, Mike. You are the Truth-Teller.

    Warmest Regards,
    Calvin

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    1. Calvin,

      Thanks so much for your kind words! We’re always honored when you share your insights and shine your unique light on the latest posts. We’re blessed to have you!

      Mike

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  8. William H. Trail | Reply

    Greetings to All:

    Sergeant Kanna’s job as Platoon Sergeant of an Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon charged with capturing Japanese personnel for interrogation was not an easy or enviable one. Please see the link provided.

    https://military-history.fandom.com/wiki/Japanese_prisoners_of_war_in_World_War_II

    All best,

    William

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  9. Some people just don’t understand that govts have a need to lie from time to time and that is what happened here. Not surprised by it.

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  10. It would have been nice if the interrogators had asked the prisoner (and he wasn’t the only one, was he?) why he kept a photo of Amelia on his person. The interrogators evidently didn’t think it at all strange, at least not that we know of. Was it because they were ordered not to comment at the time? How come this never made the MSM or the military newspapers? It always makes me think that to some Japanese she was seen as a sympathetic figure.

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  11. If the subject photo and information pertaining to it was in fact sent up the Intel chain for analysis, perhaps the report might still exist today in some archive. Its existence, reported by Sergeant Kanna and verified by Sergeant Moritsugu, has been established.

    Sergeant Kanna and all three of his Interpreters are dead, leaving us only what bits of information we have seen here. So, until their original report is located, we can only speculate as to exactly who the POW was and what he knew.

    Knowing who the POW was might lead to other interrogation reports, memoirs, or objects of interest. For instance, he might also have kept a diary.

    There were basically three categories of prisoners taken and interrogated on Saipan. The first were Japanese military personnel, the second were Japanese civilians living and working on Saipan, and the third were the native people of Saipan (mostly Chamorro). These three groupings were kept in separate camps and hospitals on Saipan following US take over.

    The post war comments by Sergeants Kanna and Moritsugu do not specifically state the identity of their POW or what category he belonged to, but if taken in Tank Valley, he was most likely a Japanese military combatant.

    It is odd that a Japanese combatant, under such extreme conditions would carry with him a photograph of Amelia Earhart on his person. One can only speculate as to his attachment to her or the photo and his reasons for possessing it.

    One possible reason might be that he hoped to use it to save his own life or the lives of his friends or family members by providing the US with information pertaining to Amelia’s fate. Very few Japanese were taken prisoner on Saipan, with many fighting to the death or committing suicide instead of being taken POW.

    Another reason might be that he was a photographer who either took or developed the photograph, and considered it a very precious souvenir. If so, he would have had to keep it secret from his superiors, and run the risk of punishment if they knew he had kept it.

    There was another picture of Amelia Earhart (cut from a magazine) found in the quarters of a Japanese officer during the fighting on Saipan, and considered by some to show Amelia as a prisoner of the Japanese. That photo was later identified as one taken some years earlier than her disappearance and at another known location. But again, why the interest in Amelia by a Japanese army officer on Saipan?

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    1. There were many other photos of Amelia and Noonan in Japanese captivity on Saipan. See Truth at Last, Chapter IX, “Saipan Veterans Come Forward,” pages 180-204. The intelligence file on these photos, if ever found and aired, would break open the Earhart case forever.

      MIke

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  12. When I come out with this hypothesis, I feel like I am questioning the whole premise of WW2. Which I am, on no concrete evidence. Is it possible that some wing of the antiwar movement sent her on this mission to the Japanese? Then why not have her fly direct to Saipan? Did she? I know I have read an account of someone seeeing her fly in to Saipan, probably it’s in TAL.

    I would say, based on a shallow reading of WW2 history, that there was a powerful group in the USA of bankers and industrialists (Prescott Bush, for example) who relished the prospect of war with Germany and Japan. They would (and did, I presume) profit handsomely. These men didn’t especially care who won the war, as they were all pals, anyway, and had facilitated Hitler being installed in power.

    As for the Japanese, I don’t see these same bankers and industialists being palsy-walsy with the Japanese hierarchy. They probably were with Chiang-Kai-Chek whose Natinalist party was probably busy exploiting the Chinese people at the time. in cahoots with the Delanos and other prominent families. So, in a nutshell, the Japanese were expendable Orientals interfering with the American profits in China. Naturally, they had to be portrayed as “brutal” and slightly subhuman. Maybe Amelia was allied with the USA factions that were opposed to this scheme. A little far out. but what do I know?

    Sincerely,

    David

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    1. NOBODY saw AE fly to Saipan, Dave. Thomas E. Devine, in his own personal world of Earhart tunnel vision and fantasy, went to his grave stubbornly refusing to consider the mountain of evidence supporting the truth of her Marshalls landing. Devine was all alone in his thinking, and nobody ever agreed with him. It was a problem for me as well, when I knew and worked with him. He didn’t appreciate the Marshalls chapter in With Our Own Eyes, not a bit. It was a late addition and helped make the book much better than it would have been.

      Mike

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    2. William H. Trail | Reply

      David,

      Instead of a shallow reading of history you might consider taking a “deep dive.” Again I highly recommend to you Edwin P. Hoyt’s “Japan’s War The Great Pacific Conflict” (1986) McGraw-Hill Book Company. Also, do an online search for “zaibatzu.”

      All best,

      William

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      1. William,
        I may obtain that book, I’ll look into it. I looked up zaibatsu, I never heard that term before. I am also going to watch a video on You Tube called “All wars are bankers’ wars”. I don’t remember who said that, maybe it was Smedley Butler.
        Although I have never delved into it, I may want to study the history of the American Civil War. I doubt that it had much to do with the “Slavery Issue”, after all, who is going to make any money by “freeing the slaves?” A prominent author I am acquainted with apparently shares these views.
        The trouble with finding a narrative of a particular war that is more realistic and unconventional than the MSM platitudes is that when I burst out with these views to my acquaintances soon to be former acquaintances it does nothing for my social scorecard. (such as TAL views of Amelia’s fate). What happens is that when the MSM and mainstream history books and constant TV specials pound a fictional point of view long enough it becomes an axiom, so to speak, just as professional propagandists all know. So, I obtain the status of “cool” only in my own mind. My approach to this conflict is, in general, just tune it all out most of the time, and seek enlightenment somewhere else.
        Sincerely,
        David

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  13. Nesei simply means someone who is half Japanese-having one Japanese parent and one not. Many of these can speak both Japanese and English, making them good translators.

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    1. Not quite correct, Mr. McGhee. Correct spelling is “Nisei” and is a term referring to second generation born in U.S. of Japanese ancestry. They are full Japanese in ethnicity, though fully Americanized in orientation and thinking, English is a first language, though many speak passable Japanese enough to communicate with their Issei parents who are not fluent in English. (“Issei” is first generation Japanese settlers in U.S.) There are many Niseis who do not speak Japanese, but understand some words. Of course the Niseis who do speak Japanese and serving with the U.S. military were made full use as translators during the war and in Occupied Japan after the war.

      The ones who are half Japanese are known in Hawaii as “Hapa”.

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      1. Growing up in Los Angeles in the Fifties, I knew a fair number of Japanese-American kids, mostly sansei (children of nisei). They were all good kids. I later worked for a major aerospace firm which had many Japanese-American employees probably due to the location of the facility. Interestingly, virtually every male Japanese-American I knew in school and those with whom I worked claimed to have had a close relative who served with the U.S. Army 442 Regimental Combat Team or 100th Infantry Battalion, or both, during WW2.

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